November 19, 2018

Wyden Says Radioactive Waste Changes Need More Public Input

Senator says feds’ proposed changes are concerning for safety at Hanford and nationwide

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden today asked the federal Department of Energy (DOE) to extend the public comment period about its proposed new definition of high-level radioactive waste.

Wyden said in a letter to DOE that its 60-day public comment period starting Oct. 10 is far too short given the magnitude of the proposed changes.

“You recently received a request by more than six dozen organizations from across the country requesting that you extend the comment period in this proceeding,” Wyden wrote Anne Marie White, assistant secretary for environmental management at DOE. “I am writing to similarly request that DOE extend the comment period 120 days.”

Wyden said DOE’s push to reinterpret the definition of high-level radioactive waste is of great importance to Oregonians because the department’s Hanford Reservation in Washington is on the banks of the Columbia River. Hanford contains the largest share of DOE’s high-level radioactive waste inventory – about 56 million gallons stored in 177 underground storage tanks, Wyden wrote.

The senator noted that DOE proposes to reinterpret not just its own definition of high-level waste, but also the statutory definition of high-level waste.  Wyden wrote that narrowing the scope of what’s considered high-level waste “is departing from longstanding policies and legal interpretations.”

He wrote that “lowering the bar for level of protection of future generations and the environment by changing the definition of what has always been considered high-level waste requiring permanent disposal is a significant change and could lead to dramatically different clean-up practices and outcomes.”

A copy of the letter is here.

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